ISLAMABAD - For Naseem Akhter appreciation of her craft is more important than the profit she gets from the sale of cloths embellished with traditional Phulkari Tanka, although she is in need of money most of the times.

Buyers here usually do not realise that it’s not just an embroidered ensemble but a piece of craft, explained Naseem Akhter while arranging embroidered stitched and unstitched two and three-piece attires at her stall at Lok Virsa. “It takes a month to prepare just one article. It takes a lot of hard works and care as it is made by counting treads of a cloth as patterns can’t be drawn in this craft unlike other stitches,” she explained.

Naseem Akhter who masters in Phulkari — a famous form of embroidery from the Hazara region — weaves intricate flower and geometrical patterns with coloured silk threads on hand-woven cotton cloths, bedclothes and other articles.

Phulkari — flower work or flowering on a hand-woven coarse cotton cloth — is well known for its intricate designs. Silk threads in yellow, shocking pink, white and green are used and darning stitch is employed in vertical, horizontal and diagonal movements to create elaborated geometric and floral patterns.

Akhter says her eyesight has been affected because of the tiny designs and small detailing motifs but it pays back when people praise her work and invite her to set up stalls in exhibitions. “We get a much more reward and acclaim when we exhibit our work abroad. But here only foreigners, tourists and few locals understand and acknowledge our work.”

She has exhibited in different cities in Pakistan and India, and after Eid she will be flying to Australia along with other artisans to showcase her work under the umbrella of Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

She learnt this craft from a nearby school after marriage. “Initially, I used to make one or two dress pieces and sell them on my own to nearby women. Gradually, more women joined me and now we all make a network. We buy cloths and threads, do embroidery on them, and stitch and sell them in villages and exhibitions.”

She has trained her five daughters and a number of female students in her hometown Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in this art. “Every woman must know some craft. You never know when you fall on hard times,” she believes. “It makes women independent,” she added.

As she does not own any outlet so they work on orders or display their work in various exhibitions. This time the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa) had provided an opportunity to her to exhibit her work for the residents of the federal capital on the occasion of Eid.

Though this time there are a few customers yet in big exhibition she gets handsome profit, she said. “I have sold dresses without getting any profit to make the visitors aware about this craft,” said Akhter who is always ready to explain about her work.

It is a perennial issue with the traditional craft sector that has to do with mindset and how we see ourselves and our culture,” maintains Dr Fouzia Saeed, Executive Director of Lok Virsa. “We neither value ourselves nor our traditions and culture. But when it comes to branded clothes that are put with fixed price tags, we spend thousands of rupees but don’t want to spend on such traditional items.

Even we prefer to buy cheap copies of traditional handicraft goods,” she added. Only civilised nations possess a developed taste for their culture and traditions as they are proud of their civilisations, she believed.

The 10-day Eid Mela at Lok Virsa ended on Chand Raat (Friday night). Naseem Akhter also packed up her stall and moved back to her hometown to celebrate Eid with her family, hoping there would be more admirers of her work to pay a good price when she exhibits here next time.